Facebook has hired Nick Clegg, former U.K. deputy prime minister and head of the country’s Liberal Democrats, as VP of global affairs and communications, tasked with taking on a knot of issues ranging from “fake news” to data-privacy breaches. COO Sheryl Sandberg and Clegg confirmed the move in posts Friday on Facebook.
“After almost twenty years in European and British politics, this is an exciting new adventure for me,” wrote Clegg, who lost his seat in the British Parliament last year. “Throughout my public life I have relished grappling with difficult and controversial issues and seeking to communicate them to others. I hope to use some of those skills in my new role.”
Clegg’s hire comes after Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s longtime VP of communications and public policy, exited the company in June, saying it was “time to start a new chapter” after 10 years with the social-media company.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent months working to recruit Clegg for the job, according to the Financial Times, which first reported the news. Clegg, 51, will report to Sandberg and is expected to relocate to Silicon Valley in January with his wife, Miriam González Durántez, and their three sons.
Sandberg praised Clegg as “a thoughtful and gifted leader” who “understands deeply the responsibilities we have to people who use our service around the world.”
“The challenges we face are serious and clear and now more than ever we need new perspectives to help us though this time of change,” Sandberg wrote, saying that Clegg’s “experience and ability to work through complex issues will be invaluable in the years to come.”
Clegg inherits a rat’s nest of controversies and regulatory issues that span the globe. Most recently, Facebook said hackers stole info on 29 million users because of a security glitch. The company also is the target of a lawsuit alleging it withheld details from advertisers and publishers for more than a year about inaccurately inflated video metrics.
On the political front, Facebook has been used to spread misinformation by government-funded agents designed to sway elections, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election. And earlier this year, Facebook was engulfed in a data-privacy scandal over user info improperly obtained by U.K.-based political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, an incident that led to U.S. congressional hearings.
In his Facebook post, Clegg said that after speaking “at length” to Zuckerberg and Sandberg over the last few months, “I have been struck by their recognition that the company is on a journey which brings new responsibilities not only to the users of Facebook’s apps but to society at large. I hope I will be able to play a role in helping to navigate that journey.”
Clegg represented the district of Sheffield Hallam, in northern England, in Britain’s House of Commons from 2005 until 2017 and was leader of the center-left Liberal Democrats between 2007 and 2015. He served as deputy prime minister to David Cameron during the 2010-15 coalition government, but the decision to join forces with Cameron’s Conservatives was deeply unpopular with many rank-and-file Liberal Democrats and cost the party dearly in the 2015 election.
Clegg is a graduate of Cambridge University, where he once starred in a student production of Larry Kramer’s AIDS play “The Normal Heart.”
— Henry Chu contributed to this report.